Learners as illustrators

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A very useful post from Jade Blue about using student-generated visuals. This type of fun is actually justified: students’ comprehension and retention improves because they are engaged cognitively and affectively and have an opportunity to build new patterns between what they know and what they don’t. The post describes grammar-conceptualising activities, sentence-structure activities and idea sculptures – not only with pencils and paper, but also with Cuisenaire rods. I particularly like the illustrations – makes you want to start generating your own visuals right now!

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Proofreading skills with NY Times

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Have you seen this great copy-editing quiz from the New York Times? It can work very well with any advanced students, including EAP and exam prep. I had a lot of fun with it myself, and, to be honest, finding that one error was not always easy! (And of course it should be timed.) It’s Quiz No.12, so there are a dozen of these for all your correction needs.

Are you prone to the frequency illusion?

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The Language Log describes the frequency illusion as a selective attention fallacy which happens when we come across a memorable word and then start seeing it everywhere (another name for the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon). There’s another side to it called the recency illusion, when we think that a word or phrase has come into use very recently, but in fact it may be much older.

It sounds fun, but can be quite counterproductive for linguists or teachers in a language classroom. I can’t but agree with the author: “Your impressions are simply not to be trusted; you have to check the facts.”

For a more humorous take on the frequency illusion, check out this recent post from the same website.

The terrible secret of expert memory

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Have you read this article explaining how the memory of experts works? When people say that chess develops your brain or computer games build up your cognitive skills, they may be wrong at least about memorisation skills: as it turns out, experts are good at remembering things only from their own area of expertise. Because new items that we need to remember are associated with the ones we already know, it may be quite counterproductive to practise our ‘memory muscle’ just for the sake of practice.

So much for hoping that the more foreign languages we speak, the easier it will be to learn another! Unless they are really similar, I guess.

Tech on review

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If you are wondering how to incorporate more recycling into your classroom, this post by Richard Byrne will provide you with a lot of app-related ideas. From VideoNotes to Flippity, there are exciting tools for every revision need. I’m not a big fan of tech for tech’s sake, but these look actually useful: you can save your time by creating visually attractive and repeatable quizzes, use pre-made flashcards, engage tired and bored students. Great choice!

Constructive constraints

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Another great post by James Clear is about the unexpected positive effect of limits and constraints on learning. He describes several types of constraints you can build into your practice: time, resources and environment, and explains how each of them works. I have used time quite a lot: timing IELTS essays or reading, giving myself (or others) unrealistic deadlines. The equivalent of resource constraint in ELT could be vocabulary flashcards: for example, writing a story with the five random cards you’ve pulled out. What about constraints of the environment? I can only think of having lessons in a noisy cafe, with no whiteboard or no paper – any ideas?

The purpose of pyramids

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Here is an inspirational post about paying attention to learners’ psychological needs. Some of the advice (e.g. keep healthy snacks for kids) is not applicable to some contexts, including mine, some should be taken with a grain of salt (praise as much as possible); however, there’s a useful reminder to get rid of visual clutter in the classroom, and the “2 x 10” strategy is a real gem. Not sure if Maslow goes before Bloom or after, but both are definitely important.

Brevity is the mother of lesson planning

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An interesting way to write short – very short! – lesson plans by Norman Eng from cultofpedagogy.com: think about the WHAT, the HOW, and the WHY of your lesson and write down just one sentence. During the lesson, this basic structure can unfold into PPP or TTT or any other model.

Could be easily applied to our daily grind – what do you think?

Ways to focus on your teaching

 

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What a treasure trove of teaching techniques! Whatever else you read this week, don’t miss this article by Tom Sherrington where he posits that focusing on one teaching skill at a time is much more beneficial than trying to develop in all areas at once. Then he suggests 10 different areas to practise, from reviewing to mini-whiteboards, ‘Michaela’ feedback and Turbo-challenge – there’s more where these came from, with links to more information. Which one are you going to choose?